Monday, January 28, 2008



Parric flapped backwards, dodging the bloody rain of body parts. His coils twitched with interest as he took in the eight-legheaded creature with deliberate consideration.

"So," he said at last, "I'm finally catching you up. But just otherwhere are you coming from?"

The thing tramped over Flavius' remains, pawing and gnawing at the ground as if it were trying to snuff the life out of every last cell. It emitted a deep thrumming from its thorax, and radial patterns flushed cyan from its back, radiating along the length of its legheads. It was very much unlike any sort of otherwhereian creature Parric had encountered before.

It took no notice of Parric. A quick check of the perimeter assured Parric that the Obscuring he'd crafted still shielded them from the humans' battle raging just a few flaps away. The Obscuring may well be blocking the otherwhereian's awareness of him as well, Parric reasoned. Still, it attacked Flavius through that same Obscuring.

"You're more of a puzzling to me that I’m expecting. Yes, you’re definitely requiring more studying," Parric said, selecting some cormynt and reesehops from his pouches. "No more leading me on chasings through Cosms for you. No more killings for you, either."

Parric crafted a Holding around the otherwhereian.

It abruptly stopped pawing at Flavius' remains. Four legheads snapped up, alert, each sweeping its ring of eyes in a different direction.

"Oh, you’re feeling that?" Parric said, somewhat surprised. His antennae twitched, focused on the creature. He layered on another Holding, just to be on the safe side.

The four legheads whipped around to face Parric. One by one the mouths opened, the teeth within flexing rhythmically.

Parric instinctively flinched, his featherscales ruffling. "Aren't you full of surprisings. Too many for my tasting, though." Parric added a third Holding.

The otherwhereian took a step toward Parric. The outermost Holding tore. It stopped, considering the invisible bonds holding it. Then it lunged at Parric, shrugging off tattered Holdings in its wake.

Parric shrieked, darting to the side. A massive leghead slammed into the ground where he'd been a moment earlier, the mouth gouging out a huge chunk of turf. Parric’s wings flew into action, the twin sets a sudden whining blur jerking him back from another crushing blow.

Parric shot away, flying low to the ground. He weaved through the choking smoke of battle, in and out among confused Highlanders. The creature galloped after him, disturbingly quick for something so large and ungainly. It trampled any human unlucky enough to get in its way, the gnashing mouths flinging out broken bodies with every step.

Parric zoomed over the Scottish artillery, a handful of cannons with disorganized crew. An instant later the creature smashed through them, sending the guns tumbling.

“Things are not going as I’m planning,” Parric muttered. He'd meant to take Flavius' killer unawares, yet now he was the pursued. This otherwhereian was an order of magnitude more powerful than he’d expected. “Time for escapings.”

Parric's antennae flexed out, searching for Nexial gaps--seams in the Cosm's fabric of reality. Then Parric remembered. The sword.
"Scalesplittings," Parric muttered. "Damn, damn and damning you, Flavius MacDuff, to the deepest wingrottings pit in this vile Cosm of yours."

Parric broke left and back, veering beneath the creature's striking legs. The brute was moving too fast to follow--the sodden ground gave way beneath it, and the creature caromed wildly.

"The sword, the sword," Parric berated himself. "How am I forgetting that wretched sword?"

The battle lines had moved, the chaos of the fight churning the field with blood. Parric darted along, parallel to the English lines. He scanned the ground for any glimpse of the sword. Random shots tore through the air around him, forcing Parric to break from the search to dodge. The English had finally noticed him. More complications.

A silver blade flashed beneath him. Parric pulled up sharply and doubled back, his wings battering away several English too close to his prize. Quickly he scooped the sword up. His antennae fell limp in disgust. It was the wrong sword.

The otherwhereian burst through the smoke, hurling itself at Parric.

“You are full of persistings, too,” Parric said. With a sharp motion, Parric launched himself into the air while flinging the found sword at the beast. The blade tip buried itself nearly a foot deep into one of the tough legheads as the otherwhereian pounced on the spot Parric had been moments earlier. One of the legheads pulled the sword free with its teeth. The injured leg howled a reverberant "Hooon!" then took off in pursuit of Parric once more.

The English weren't making Parric's search any easier, forcing him to continuously dodge musket fire as more and more of the army turned its attention from the routed Highlanders. To make matters worse, they weren't hindering the otherwhereian much at all. Their guns were too weak to pierce its rugged hide, their bodies too small to slow it as it churned its way through their ranks.

Then, below, Parric saw his prize. Amidst great chewed-out gouges of turf lay the muddy claymore with the whortleberry hilt. The otherwhereian was close behind, too close for Parric to chance a landing. Ahead, he spied the English artillery, the cannon crews struggling to turn the guns to face the invaders from otherwhere.

Parric clicked his beak in anticipation. “I’m thinking of surprisings for the teeth-footing beastie,” he said, flying straight at the artillery. Parric slowed slightly, just enough for the otherwhereian to gain on him. When the otherwhereian drew within a wingspan, Parric again broke left. He veered back and down, threading the needle between the massive legheads.

This time the otherwhereian was ready. A hind leghead swung forward horizontally, maw open wide.

Parric screeched in alarm, trying to cut right. The snapping mouth clipped Parric's leading wing, crumpling it. Out of control, Parric collided with another leghead. His momentum carried him past it, and he tumbled through a rank of English soldiers before plowing into the muddy sod.


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